So I decided to continue this, but the continuation got a little long so it's now going to be three parts. My goal is to get the whole thing posted before the Wano arc starts, but that's going to depend on a lot of things, like what arc actually starts tomorrow.
After two years of waiting, wondering what he could do and worrying that the two year gap was too long to wait, Sanji had forgiven him. Zoro was elated, grinning like an idiot as he helped Sanji with the shopping. He could tell Sanji was too. Although he was a bit more reserved about it, there was a definite spring in his step as he led Zoro around Sabaody.
With all the misunderstandings and hurt and confusion behind them, they could finally just be what they were always meant to be, soulmates. The New World was full of new opportunities and adventures and Zoro couldn't wait to share them with Sanji.
This positive attitude lasted until the moment Sanji first laid eyes on the girls and blood gushed from his nose. Zoro's nose, of course, echoed it.
Soulmate or not, Sanji was still Sanji.
"You're such a moron," Zoro said as he tilted his head back. It didn't actually do anything to stop the bleeding, but it felt like it did.
From where he had his head in Zoro's lap, Sanji whined, "You're supposed to feel sympathy for my suffering."
"I do," Zoro said, stroking Sanji's hair as Chopper set up an IV, because this idiot needed a blood transfusion for a nosebleed, "It's not suffering if you're a moron."
"Don't worry Sanji," Chopper said as he stuck the needle into his arm, "I'll get you better!"
"You're lucky, Cook. Chopper finally found a cure for hopeless idiocy."
Sanji growled, "Don't you have someplace else you need to be?"
"Maybe," he glanced down at him, "But I want to be here."
Sanji blushed and covered his face with his hands, muttering, "Shut up."
Zoro grinned, moving his hand from Sanji's hair to gently pry one hand away from his face. He intertwined their fingers and let their joined hands rest together by Sanji's head.
Zoro watched the scenery for a bit as they continued to sink to the seafloor.
"Hey, so," Chopper said once he'd finished setting up the IV, "Are you guys, like, together now?"
They looked at each other, then over at where their hands where still together. Zoro leaned back and yawned, leaving Sanji to describe their relationship however he wanted.
"Uh," Sanji gave his hand a squeeze, "Yeah, we're together."
"Good, I was worried, well, we were all worried that you'd never, but you are, and that's good," Chopper grinned as he cleaned up his medical supplies, "We're all happy for you."
Once he was gone, Zoro and Sanji stayed there together in a comfortable silence. Zoro went back to watching the scenery as Sanji stroked his hand. Huge fish swam by the ship, fish Zoro hadn't even heard of, but Sanji knew a lot about fish, so maybe he did. He thought about asking him, but he didn't want to break the peaceful moment with conversation.
Of course then Nami walked by and Sanji's nose started to bleed again.
"Is this going to be our life now?" Zoro asked as he snatched some of the tissues Chopper left by them and attempted to mop up the blood, "Every time a girl walks by we're gonna start bleeding?"
"No, shut up," Sanji grumbled as he struggled against Zoro's help, knocking the IV over. Zoro caught it before it hit the ground and set it back up, "It's just temporary."
"At this rate you'll be dead before we even reach Fishaman Island," Zoro said with a smirk, "No mermaids for you."
"Shut up," Sanji said with a pout, "I'll absolutely have it under control by the time we reach Fishman Island."
He did not have it under control.
Zoro had been invited into Ryugu Palace, apparently they had saved the Princess's pet or something and the King wanted to throw them a banquet. Zoro had tried to explain that it was an accident and that a banquet wasn't necessary, but they wouldn't hear of it, and Zoro wasn't the kind of man to turn down free booze, so to the Palace he went.
He'd been waiting, very patiently in his opinion, for the rest of the crew to show up when all of a sudden his nose started gushing Sanji's blood again, more blood than ever before.
He guessed Sanji had found the mermaids.
"Uh," one of the Fishman guards said, "Do you need some help with that?"
"Nope," Zoro said determined to ignore the blood spurting out of his nose like it was a fountain.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like someone to look at it? Before it gets," the guard shifted, glancing between Zoro's bleeding nose and the food table, "Everywhere? We have several doctors for the Royal Family on hand that are more than capable of assisting you."
"I'm fine," Zoro said, irritation growing as even more blood gushed from his nose. If Sanji died from this, he'd kill him.
"Are, you absolutely sure?"
Zoro snarled and grabbed the nearest bottle of sake. He yanked the cork out with his teeth, spit it across the room, and took a long drink from it.
"Shouldn't you wait for everyone?" the guard asked, "Isn't it more fun to drink together?"
Zoro leveled the guard with a glare, "I'm starting now."
The guard backed off, and Zoro attempted to drown his problems with alcohol.
With Hody Jones defeated and Fishman Island free from his reign of terror, the party at Ryugu Palace was well under way. There was plenty of food and drink to go around, and even a live band and accompanying mermaid dancers.
Once Zoro had his fill of food and drink, he glanced around the hall and spotted Sanji at a table with Chopper, Brook, and about a dozen mermaids. He was fawning over them, Brook was too, but watching Sanji act like an idiot was starting to make his blood boil.
He needed some air.
The sounds of the party were lessened once out on the balcony. Zoro lied down on the floor, pillowed his arms behind his head, and stared up at the ocean surrounding the palace.
Zoro didn't know what he was expecting. Sanji had always been an idiot around girls, and he didn't really think that would change just because they were together now or whatever. He had hoped that Sanji would show some form of control out of respect for him, but that didn't appear to be the case.
Did he want Sanji to stop throwing his heart at the girls and focus it solely on him? He pictured Sanji twirling around on deck, calling him 'Zoro dear' and feeding him heart shaped pastries as he worshiped the ground he walked on. He cringed. No, he didn't want that.
So what did he want from Sanji?
He felt someone come out onto the balcony and looked up to see Sanji. He lit a cigarette and came over to sit down next to him.
"Hey," he said, taking a drag from the cigarette.
Zoro grunted in reply and closed his eye.
The silence dragged on, filled by the noise filtering in from the party and the sound of their breathing. Sanji tapped his fingers against his leg as Zoro started to doze.
"I'm, uh," Sanji started. Zoro opened his eye and saw Sanji rolling his cigarette between his lips, a faint blush tinting his cheeks, "I'm sorry, about the whole, you know," he waved a hand, "Almost dying from a nosebleed thing."
Zoro shrugged, "It is what it is," and closed his eye again.
Silence fell between them again. Sanji started fidgeting, and just as Zoro was about to ask what was wrong, he said, "Are you, second guessing this whole thing?"
Zoro sat up, resting against his hands, and looked right at Sanji as he said, "No, I'm not." Sanji visibly relaxed, and Zoro continued, "I am wondering if you are."
Sani blinked and looked over at him, "I've wanted this since I was a kid, why would I?"
"I know I'm not exactly what you were expecting your soulmate to be," he continued, "And that's fine. I wasn't expecting you either. But I don't do things half-assed, you should know that."
Sanji's brow furrowed, "Yeah, I know."
"If you want to keep this thing between us platonic, that's fine, I can do that," he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and Sanji leaned back, "If you want this to be romantic, then I'm all in, a hundred percent, but I expect you to be too."
Sanji looked confused for a moment, then his eyes went wide and he looked away, letting out a soft, "Oh."
Zoro sat in silence as Sanji bit his lip, mulling it over. After a long moment he sighed and said, "I, like girls. I can't help it. I think that ladies deserve special treatment and that, as a man, I should provide it."
Zoro closed his eye and clenched his fists, expecting the answer but not the disappointment curling up in his gut after hearing it.
"But," Sanji looked over at him and continued, "I love you. Shit, I've been in love with you almost my whole life. I want this, I really want this, and I'll try but I don't think I can stop my eyes from wandering. Just know that my heart never will."
A smile formed on Zoro's face as he blushed and looked away, saying, "You're so fucking sappy."
"Shut the fuck up," Sanji shoved him lightly. His face was red too as he said softly, "So, are we good?"
Zoro shifted, grabbing Sanji's hand and stroking the side with his thumb as he rested his head on his shoulder, "Yeah, we're good."
Sanji relaxed, shifting his weight on his free hand so he could support all of Zoro's, "Good."
"But if your nose bleeds again I'm punching you in the dick."
Sanji jostled his shoulder, knocking Zoro's head off, "Way to ruin the moment."
"Hey, while we're being upfront about everything, I just wanted to make that clear," he shook his head then shifted so he could lay it down in Sanji's lap.
"Whatever," Sanji said as he knocked the ash off the end of his cigarette, "What if I get hit in the face or something?"
"Then you better protect your face or I'm coming after your dick."
Sanji smirked, "Didn't realize you were such a pervert."
Zoro's face went red, "Not like that! Shut up!"
Sanji laughed, "Look at us, just a couple of perverts."
"At least my nose doesn't bleed," Zoro grumbled.
"No," he said as he started stroking his hair, "But at least I don't get lost on my way to the bathroom."
Zoro continued grumbling but eventually let Sanji lure him to sleep.
Zoro spotted Sanji leaning on the railing, watching the ocean life float by as they ascended. That's right, between the nosebleeds and the fighting Sanji had missed most of this coming down. He walked over and leaned on the railing next to him.
"It's like a whole other world down here," Sanji said as huge, colorful fish swam by the ship, "It's beautiful."
The warm light from the ocean was reflecting off of Sanji's hair, giving his whole being an ethereal glow and highlighting the blue of his eyes. A soft smile played on his face, softening his features as the lights danced around his head, "Yeah," Zoro agreed.
Sanji glanced over at him as a blush spread across Zoro's cheeks. He looked away, but not before Sanji caught him staring, "Look whose sappy now."
"That's fine," Sanji said as he leaned a little closer, "I like sappy."
They stood there in silence for a moment, Zoro resting his hands on the railing as Sanji puffed on his cigarette.
"It's kinda romantic, don't you think?" Sanji said as he rested his hand on the railing and nodded towards the ocean, "The view?"
Zoro shrugged, "I guess."
"Yeah," Sanji sighed. Zoro noticed his hand creep across the railing towards his, "It's nice to, you know, share a view like this with someone you care about, yeah?"
Zoro smirked as he gazed out over the ocean, "Huh, if you say so."
Sanji hummed, his hand stopping right next to Zoro's, close enough to feel the heat coming off of it. He lifted his pinky finger so it was hovering just above Zoro's, just enough to disturb the hair on his finger. Zoro kept his hand still as Sanji slowly lowered his pinky and gently stroked Zoro's.
"Um, yeah," Sanji said, clearing his throat and immediately pulled his hand back.
Before his hand could get too far away, Zoro caught it with his own and held it there, intertwining their fingers.
"If you wanna hold my hand, just hold my hand," he said, stroking the side of Sanji's hand with his thumb, "We're together, right? Couples should feel free to do things like that."
"Y-Yeah," Sanji's blush spread to the tips of his ears as his free hand went to cradle the cigarette between his lips, "Just didn't think you were into public displays of affection."
"I'm not really," he stroked Sanji's hand again, "But this is nice."
Sanji hummed in acknowledgement and turned his hand in Zoro's so he was holding it properly, "I just, don't want to scare you off."
Zoro laughed, "I've known you for a while now, Cook. If your personality hasn't scared me off yet it never will."
"You're such an ass," Sanji said with a grin.
They stood basking in the moment for a few minutes before they sensed someone behind them.
"I think we've got company," Zoro said.
Sanji exhaled a stream of smoke, "Yup."
They turned around to find half of the crew not-so-subtly watching them.
"Don't mind us," Usopp said with a hand wave, "Just continue going about your business."
"I think it's great that you guys finally worked things out," Franky said, wiping tears from his eyes, "So beautiful."
Brook took out his violin, "I can provide romantic music to heighten the mood, if you wish."
"Are you guys gonna kiss?" Luffy said with a grin.
Sanji's face went tomato red as he let go of Zoro's hand, "Yeah, I gotta go do something in the galley," he said as he rushed off.
Zoro watched him go with a frown. He clenched his now empty hand and turned towards his crewmates, "Well thanks a lot."
Usopp rolled his eyes, "He wants you to follow him."
"What," he glanced over at the galley door, slammed closed when Sanji made his exit, "No he doesn't."
"Bro, you gotta learn to read the mood," Franky said as he put a hand on his shoulder, "He wants to be alone with you."
Zoro brushed the hand off as Brook began playing something slow and sweet on his violin, "You embarrassed him. He just wants to be alone."
"Marimo!" Sanji shouted from the galley, "Get in here!"
His crewmates laughed as Zoro muttered, "Shut up," and stalked off.
"Don't forget to kiss him!" Luffy shouted after him, "When you love someone you're supposed to kiss them!"
Zoro spared them all one last withering glare before he slunk into the galley after Sanji.
Zoro felt a strong tug at his heart as he was zipping up his borrowed coat. He winced and grabbed his chest, wondering what the hell that was about.
"Something wrong?" Usopp asked as he finished putting on his own coat, "It's not Sanji, is it?"
"I don't know," Zoro said as he released his chest. The tug stopped as suddenly as it started, and other than his own lingering cold from the sudden dip in the freezing half of the lake in the middle of Punk Hazard, he felt no other injuries, no other echoes, "I felt something, but it's gone now."
"A tug right?" Robin asked, pointing at her own chest, "Right by your heart?"
Zoro's eye narrowed, "You felt it too?"
"Shit," Zoro turned away and ran a hand through his hair. If Robin felt it, then whatever just happened to Sanji also happened to Franky, and most likely the rest of their captured crewmates as well.
"Hey, the crocodile-centaur's gonna give us a ride," Luffy said as he jumped down from said centaur's back.
"He didn't actually agree to it, of course," Brook said as he joined them, "But he is the only one that can fit all of us on his back," he glanced between the three of them, "Oh dear, did something happen?"
"Zoro and Robin felt soulmate echoes," Usopp answered, "Nothing big, but…"
"What did you feel?" Luffy asked with a frown.
"Just a tug," Zoro said as he pointed at his heart, "Right here. It's gone now."
"I must admit, I'm not sure what it was," Robin said, a finger to her lips, "I've never felt anything like it before."
"Me neither," Zoro bit his lip and looked away. Just what had Sanji gotten himself into this time?
"Do you guys feel any other echoes?" Luffy asked. Zoro and Robin shook their heads, and Luffy grinned, "Okay, good. They're strong, they'll be fine. We were looking for them anyway, so let's go find them." He stretched his arm out and grabbed a hold of the crocodile-centaur guy, flinging himself on his back.
The others followed. Zoro glanced down at his chest, lightly touching the spot where he felt the tug before climbing onboard as well.
Whatever that was, he was sure it was nothing.
"You guys! You're here!" Sanji said, jumping up and down and waving his arms, "I'm so happy to see you!"
Zoro and the others climbed off the crocodile-centaur's back, glancing between each other, their newly found crewmates, and the hoard of giant children accompanying them. Sanji ran forward and threw his arms around Luffy in a tight hug.
Zoro's mouth fell open. Sanji barely hugged him and they were supposed to be dating or whatever, but here he was throwing himself at Luffy, right in front of him, with no issues whatsoever. What the hell?
"Sanji," Usopp said cautiously, "Are you okay? You seem, overly excited."
Sanji didn't answer, just buried his face into Luffy's chest, and Zoro was three seconds away from slicing him up, echoes be damned.
"I'm more than okay," Nami answered instead, hands on her chest, "I'm having the best day of my life!"
"Stop touching them!" Franky shouted.
"So something not so super happened," Chopper explained as he came over, "And we can totally explain everything, even the talking head," Zoro hadn't even noticed, Franky was holding a severed head, what the hell, "But first we should find someplace out of the snow for the kids."
They did manage to find a cave made from some broken building pieces and lab equipment lying around to hole up in. On the way, Zoro managed to pick up that the four missing crewmates had swapped bodies somehow.
"We ran into that Warlord, Trafalgar Law," Chopper explained once they were all settled in, "While we were making our getaway, we were suddenly in the wrong body. Anyway, I'm Franky, so don't come to me if you're injured."
"I'm Chopper," Sanji said, "I'll heal you if you get hurt."
"I'm Nami," Franky said, "I won't ever shoot a beam, so don't even ask."
"And I," Nami said, with hearts in her eyes as she stripped off her coat and struck a pose, "am Nami!"
Brook and Usopp cheered as Zoro glared. Franky-Nami sighed pulled out a notebook, "100,000 for every peep, 200,000 berries for every grope."
Nami-Sanji buttoned up his coat, "I'm stopping, I'm stopping!"
When everybody calmed down, Usopp asked, "So what's this mean for your guys' soulmates?"
Zoro frowned, "What do you mean?" As far as he was aware, Sanji was still his soulmate and swapped bodies didn't change that.
"I mean like, are you going to feel Chopper's injuries now that he's in Sanji's body, and is Chopper going to feel yours?" he said, gesturing at Sanji-Chopper, "Will Robin's injuries appear on Chopper's body because Franky is in it, or will they still appear on Franky's body even though Nami's in it?" Robin and Chopper-Franky glanced at each other, "Will Vivi still be feeling whatever happens to Nami, even though she's in Franky's body, or will she now be feeling what's happening to Sanji because he's in Nami's body?"
Zoro's frown deepened. He certainly didn't mind keeping track of Chopper by feeling him get hurt, even if it was uncomfortable and strangely intimate, but the thought of Vivi feeling Sanji's injuries set him on edge. He had nothing against Vivi, he considered her a crewmate and a very dear friend even if she wasn't sailing with them, but Sanji was his soulmate, not Vivi's, and his injuries were his to feel.
He looked over at Nami-Sanji, and saw a similar conflict playing out across his face.
"Ow!" Sanji-Chopper cried out, rubbing his shoulder as Luffy lowered his fist. Tears sprang into his eyes as a heartbroken expression that didn't suit Sanji at all crossed his face, "Luffy, why would you punch me?"
"Zoro, did you feel that?" Luffy asked.
Zoro glanced down at his own shoulder. He hadn't felt a thing, "No."
Luffy walked over to Nami-Sanji, fist raised.
"Wait, Luffy don't!" Franky-Nami shouted, but it was too late.
"Ow! Luffy!" Nami-Sanji shouted, rubbing his shoulder.
"Yup," Zoro said, rubbing his own shoulder. Luffy had not held back at all, that was definitely going to bruise, "Felt that."
"Good," Luffy nodded, "Mystery solved."
"We still need to confirm whether or not Zoro's injuries will be echoed onto Sanji's body or the body that Sanji is currently occupying," Robin said.
Luffy looked over at him. Zoro rolled his eye and turned his other shoulder towards him, "Go ahead."
Luffy grinned and punched him as hard as he could.
"Ah," Nami-Sanji gasped as he grabbed his shoulder, "Yes, definitely felt that over here."
"There were ways of figuring it out that didn't involve punching my body," Franky-Nami said, but there was a small smile on her face, and Zoro felt one of his own form on his own.
"Okay, well, that issue is solved," Usopp nodded, "But we've still got a hoard of giant children, two thirds of a samurai, a group of marines, and a Warlord to deal with. Oh, and half of us are still in different bodies, but I have an idea for how to deal with that."
His idea turned out to be placards for them to wear on their heads. It was a simple solution, but Zoro had to admit it they would work keeping track of who was who, for the most part.
"Hey," Nami said as she slid up to Zoro.
"Hey," Zoro responded, a little confused as to why she was standing so close before he remembered that he was talking to Sanji.
"So," Nami-Sanji said as he lit a cigarette, "Body swaps, huh?"
"Yeah," he eyed the cigarettes as he inhaled, "Is that okay? You know, with Nami's body and all?"
He shrugged, "She said it was fine, but I am doing my best to cut back until this whole thing is resolved," he scratched his head, "Which is hard, because it's so stressful."
"Yeah," Zoro nodded in agreement and leaned against the cave wall. He was trying to keep an eye on everything going on, Luffy's conversation with Brownbeard, Usopp fiddling with the placards, Brook and the half a Samurai, Robin off to the side with Chopper, Franky and Sanji dealing with the giant children, it was a lot but he was starting to get a handle on it.
Nami leaned against the cave wall too, exhaling from her cigarette. She slid her hand into Zoro's and intertwined their fingers, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.
Zoro pulled his hand away on reflex, and only after a look of confusion that morphed into disappointment crossed her face did he remember that she was actually Sanji.
"Sanji-" he started, but Nami-Sanji shook his head and backed away.
"It's fine," he said, looking anywhere but Zoro, "Sorry about that."
He turned and walked away.
Zoro became frustrated. How did the idiot expect him to react when he was walking around with Nami's face and Nami's body? This was just as much Sanji's fault as it was Zoro's.
He knew he needed to talk to Sanji about this at some point, but part of him wanted him to stew for a bit.
After a few hours of ignoring Sanji and attempting to work through his frustrations, he did decided to look for him.
"Hey, Cook," Zoro said as he walked up to Sanji, who was setting up Chopper's medical equipment, "Can we talk?"
Sanji turned around and Zoro saw the little Chopper face on his head. Right, Chopper was Sanji, Sanji was Nami, this was all so confusing, "Oh, right, sorry Chopper."
"It's okay," Sanji-Chopper said with a smile, and damnit, it was cute. Chopper couldn't do anything without being cute and now that he was in Sanji's body, he was making Sanji cute too. Or had Sanji always been cute? This whole thing was really messing with his head, "I saw Sanji talking by the entrance with Brook before."
"Thanks," he made he was over to the entrance, but stopped short once he saw them. What was he even going to say to Sanji? 'Hey I know we're still figuring out this relationship, but I think it's weird that you look like our mutual friend who I don't have these feelings for' didn't quite seem to cover the cascade of emotions he was feeling. Maybe he should just leave it alone until everyone was back in their right bodies.
"What do you mean the samurai's gone?" Nami-Sanji shouted suddenly.
"I told him I saw a lone torso before," Brook explained, "He asked me where it was, and then he left."
Nami-Sanji groaned and ran his hands through his hair, "Shit, I'm the one who brought him with us when he was just a head. If he dies out there, then it's on me," he puffed on the cigarette in his mouth and crossed his arms.
"Are you going after him?" Brook asked, "Would you like me to show you the way?"
"Yeah, we gotta," he sighed and turned to Luffy, "Hey, is it alright if we go out for a bit?"
"Yeah, that's fine," Luffy said with a nod before turning back to his conversation with Usopp.
"Alright, I'll lead the way," Brook said as they left, "By the way can I see your panties?"
Franky's hand landed on Zoro's shoulder, and he looked up to see Franky-Nami giving the two of them the deadliest glare, "Zoro, go with them."
He raised an eyebrow, "Why should I?"
The hand on his shoulder tightened, "Just. Do it."
"Fine," he shoved her hand off of him and ran off after them.
"And no making out with Sanji while he's in my body!" she shouted after him.
"Shut up!" he shouted back, face red.
He managed to catch up with Nami-Sanji and Brook, and Sanji was ignoring him. Whatever, he wasn't here for Sanji he was here for Nami. Because Nami asked him too. Point is, Zoro could ignore Sanji too if that's how he wanted to play it.
"I'm sensing some tension here," Brook said after a while. Zoro and Nami-Sanji turned their heads away from each other as he continued, "Perhaps if we aired our concerns it would help clear the air? I'll go first: I'm concerned that Sanji will return to his original body before I can see Nami's panties."
"I'm concerned," Zoro said through gritted teeth," that you two are such giant perverts that you need a babysitter just for a search and rescue mission."
"I'm concerned," Nami-Sanji said as he bit on his cigarette filter, "That some people here are fucking hypocrites and say things they don't really mean."
"The hell's that supposed to mean?" Zoro turned to glare at him.
"You need a babysitter just to go on a damn walk!" He barked back.
He glared back, but seeing all the anger and heat that he normally associated with Sanji reflected in Nami's eyes and on Nami's face was freaking him out, so he looked away.
"Whatever," he heard Nami-Sanji say.
"I'm concerned," Brook said, slipping between them again, "That maybe neither of you are saying what you really mean, and it's creating unnecessary yet easily solved tension."
They stopped on a cliff to catch their breath.
"I'm concerned," Nami-Sanji said between pants, and really when was the last time Sanji had to catch his breath how is no one else freaked out, "That you're not as into this relationship as you say you are."
Zoro stares at him hard, "What?"
"You say some PDA is fine, then I try to hold your hand and you freak out!"
"I didn't freak out!"
Nami-Sanji rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, "Yeah you fucking did. So I'm concerned. Were there just too many people? Do you only not mind when we're in private? Is it, is it me?"
"Of course it's you!" Zoro shouted because how frustrating can one guy be? But maybe he was only so frustrating because Zoro cared so damn much about him.
He realized it was the wrong thing to say when he heard Brook gasp and saw Nami's face scrunch up in that way that Sanji's always did when he was blaming himself. Shit that came out wrong.
"I mean it's not you," he quickly backtracked. Nami-Sanji looked away and huffed, "It's not! It's your body!"
"My body?" He frowned, "Oh so what, you're just not attracted to me? The hell's wrong with my body?"
Zoro felt the sudden urge to smash his head against a rock. This was so important, why was it so difficult, "Nothing! It's just," he gestured at Nami-Sanji, "Nami."
Nami-Sanji growled and put his hands on his hips, "Oh so now you're blaming Nami?"
"No!" Zoro growled. He knew what he wanted to say but he couldn't quite piece it together, why were words so hard, "That's not what I mean!"
"Then say whatever the shit you do mean!"
"You're in Nami's body, you dumb Cook!" He screamed, "I like you but you don't even look like you right now, you look like Nami. How the hell else am I supposed to react?"
Nami-Sanji balked and opened his mouth to say something, but suddenly tensed and looked away. Zoro then felt it too, and went for his swords.
They were under attack.
Zoro woke up in a snowdrift, groggy with vague memories of falling off a cliff and cutting up a rock. He looked around and saw Brook unconscious a few feet away and Nami sitting on a rock, casually smoking a cigarette surrounding by unconscious bodies with footprint shaped bruises all over them.
The scene was jarring enough to confuse him for the few seconds it took him to remember that it was Sanji.
"So," he said as he exhaled a stream of smoke, "It's really just the body swap thing you have a problem with?"
Zoro had no idea what he was talking about until he recalled their last conversation before tumbling off the cliff. He nodded, "Yeah."
He went silent for a long moment, taking several drags from his cigarette before speaking, "I am, concerned, that at some point you'll change your mind about us."
Zoro frowned, "What?"
Nami-Sanji crossed his arms and took another puff, "I told you before that I wasn't used to getting what I wanted. I'm still trying to get used to it, I guess," he ran a hand through his hair, "I feel like you're just humoring me for now and waiting for an excuse to bail."
Zoro leveled him with the fiercest glare he could muster, anger simmering just below his skin, "Do you really think so little of me?"
"No," he looked away, down at the snow, "I just think at some point you're going to realize that you can do better."
Zoro got up and made his way over to where he was sitting. He slammed his hands down on both sides of his hips, startling Nami-Sanji as he look up at him, eyes wide as he leaned back on his hands.
Sanji wouldn't even be having these insecurities with their relationship if Zoro hadn't been such a dumbass about the whole thing in the first place. He needed to do something, to say something to ease Sanji's worries once and for all.
"Listen here you dumb fuck," Zoro said with a snarl, "Forget being lovers or soulmates or whatever. Before all that we're crewmates, and more important than that, we're friends. Do you honestly think even for a second that I would ever purposely toy with my friend like that?"
Nami-Sanji blinked, "Well, no, but-"
"But nothing! You're important to me, idiot! If the lovers thing doesn't work out then it doesn't work out, but I'm still gonna want your dumb ass in my life!"
Nami-Sanji looked away, "I'm just having trouble believing this is actually something you want."
"I'm concerned that you feel that way," Zoro lifted his hand and cupped his face, running a gloved thumb across his cheekbone, "I'm not good with emotions. I've never wanted a relationship like this with someone before, so this is all new to me. I'm still learning how to be good to you."
"You're doing fine," he lifted his hand to cover Zoro's, "I'm the one being dumb."
"Yeah you are dumb," Nami-Sanji shot him a glare and Zoro smiled, "But I knew that going in."
"Idiot," he rolled his eyes and leaned in, giving Zoro a quick kiss on his cheek, "But, thanks."
"Mm, yeah," Zoro leaned away, "Not that I don't appreciate it, but."
He leaned back too and raised an eyebrow, "Still freaked out by the Nami thing?"
Zoro nodded, "It's very confusing."
"Alright," Nami-Sanji pat his knee as he stood up, "None of that until I'm back in my body."
"I mean," Zoro stood as well as Nami-Sanji walked towards Brook, "You can kiss me and stuff all you want, but like, later."
"Duly noted," he said as he put out the cigarette on the bottom of his shoe, "For now, let's get going. We've still got a samurai to find."
"Hey! Tra-guy! Hey!" Sanji-Nami had grabbed Nami-Sanji's shoulder and started shouting. Zoro glanced up to where she was looking and saw Trafalgar Law and Luffy on the walkway above the laboratory's main room, "Switch us back!"
Zoro could agree with the sentiment, if not the timing. If Sanji being in Nami's body was awkward and confusing, Nami in Sanji's was on a whole other level, but right now they had marines in the front and poison gas that could leak in at any moment at their backs.
Nami-Sanji started shaking his head, the word 'no' on his lips, but he glanced over at Zoro and nodded instead, "Yeah, switch us back."
Law, for his part, was unperturbed as he set up his room. With a shout of "Shambles," Zoro felt that small tug on his heart again as Sanji was returned to his own body.
"And so the dream ends," Sanji sighed, a bit more wistfully then Zoro liked.
"You look better like this, Cook," Zoro grumbled. Sanji blushed, and Zoro didn't quite know why until he realized yeah, that was probably a compliment, shit he couldn't let it stand like that, "But you're still an idiot."
As Sanji was floundering for something to say, Nami punched him in the face, "Why is my coat different?"
Zoro felt the punch rattle throughout his body as Sanji collapsed to the ground. Nami could hit hard when she wanted to, but not that hard.
Sanji seemed just as confused as he asked, "Why does it feel like someone dropped a building on me?"
"Because Caesar dropped a building on us," Usopp explained, "And your body took the brunt of the damage."
"I am," Sanji closed his eyes and inhaled sharply, "So glad it was my body and not hers."
"Fucking moron," Zoro muttered under his breath.
But at least he was back to being his moron.
Zoro was sitting quietly as Chopper checked him over. He didn't feel hurt anywhere, but Law had already taken care of the kids and Chopper had insisted on checking over each of the crew members himself.
For his part, Zoro put up with the prodding as patiently as he could. Luffy had called for a party and the Marines were supplying the booze, so Sanji was left to tackle the food himself. Normally this would be fine, and Sanji was moving around with his normal grace and fluidity, but Zoro still felt a twinge in his leg that said otherwise.
"Alright, you're good," Chopper said as he pulled away, "Some very minor frostbite, so stayed bundled for now and I'll look at it again later."
"Okay," Zoro said as he made no move to button up his jacket any further than he already had it, "Did you check out Sanji yet?"
"No," he shook his head, "He's been busing cooking so I haven't got a chance."
"Okay," Zoro rubbed the back of his head, "Uh, he snapped his leg or something earlier, so do you think you could do that now?"
Chopper's eyes narrowed, "What do you mean by 'snapped his leg'?"
Zoro shrugged, "I don't really know what happened, just at some point in the factory I felt his leg bone snap."
"Geeze, how am I supposed to heal you guys if you won't tell me when you're hurt?" Chopper muttered as he rolled up Zoro's pant leg, "Where is he injured?"
Zoro pointed out the spot on his leg and noticed Sanji staring at them with a frown. Once Chopper completed his examination of the echo, he rushed off to treat Sanji.
Sanji gave Zoro a disgruntled look as Chopper fussed over him, but Zoro just shrugged. If the damn cook wasn't going to see Chopper himself, Zoro had no problems with sending him over.
Once the party was well under way, Zoro was content to sit back and drink as much of the Marine's alcohol as he could. Eventually Sanji came over with two bowls of stew and kicked him in the head.
"What was that for?" Zoro asked, rubbing at the growing bump.
"For sending Chopper after me," he said as he handed him one of the stew bowls.
"I wouldn't have to send him after you if you just saw him yourself," Zoro said as he took the bowl.
"Like you're one to talk," Sanji rolled his eyes.
"How's your leg?" he asked as he ate a spoonful of the stew. It was delicious, of course, everything Sanji made was, but he also felt the heat spread out from where it settled in his stomach all across his body, warming him up and revitalizing him.
"S'fine. Chopper said it was a stable fracture. Put it in a splint, told me to keep off of it and it'll heal up just fine."
"Like you're doing now?"
"I can't right now, I've still got to serve people. It's my job."
"It's a party," Zoro rolled his eye, "The stew's in the pot, just let people serve themselves."
Sanji glanced over at the stew pot and then back to the lingering crowd, "I should see if the kids want anything."
"Tashigi can get it for them if they do," Zoro set his bowl aside and tugged at the hem of Sanji's jacket, "C'mon, sit with me."
He hesitated once more, but then nodded and moved to sit next to him. Zoro tugged on his jacket and arm until Sanji situated himself in his lap instead.
"What are you, a child?" Sanji asked with more exasperation then bite. He'd ended up sitting with his back in Zoro's chest, with his injured leg stretched out in front and his other leg sprawled over one of Zoro's legs, which were bracketing his hips, "You okay like this?"
"Yeah," Zoro said as he picked up his bowl and took a sip, "It's cold, so this is good."
"Use a spoon at least, idiot," Sanji said as he relaxed further into his chest.
"I only have two hands," he said as he wrapped an arm around Sanji's waist, "And they're busy."
"You don't have to hold me."
"Yeah I do," he tightened his grip around Sanji, "It's important."
"The moss on your head is infecting your brain," he said, but Zoro saw the small smile on his face and the red tint on the tips of his ears, so he considered it his win.
Zoro finished his stew and set his bowl down. He leaned his forehead against Sanji's shoulder as Sanji finished his own stew and put his bowl on top of Zoro's. Sanji leaned further into Zoro's embrace and lit a cigarette, taking a drag from it and exhaling smoke hearts.
Zoro grinned against his shoulder, "You're so obvious."
Sanji dug an elbow into his side, "Shut the fuck up," he said as he rested his hand on Zoro's knee.
They sat there in a comfortable silence, simply enjoying each other's company.
Zoro was running through the streets of Dressrosa, cursing the fact that he let his guard down enough to allow his sword to get stolen. He didn't believe this 'fairy' bullshit, but when he caught whoever took it he was gonna make them wish they were never born.
"What kind of moronic swordsman lets someone steal his sword?" Sanji shouted from beside him, echoing Zoro's exact thoughts but still, rude.
"Shut up!" He barked back, "You didn't have to come!"
"How the shit do you intend to find your way back by yourself, you lost child?"
Zoro grit his teeth, noticing a crowd of people watching a dancing girl out of the corner of his eye as Shusui darted around the corner, "I can manage just fine."
"Like hell you can! Delusional Marimo."
He rounded the corner and turned to yell at Sanji some more, but he was gone. Zoro stopped and looked around, but didn't see him anywhere. He couldn't take his eye off of the dumb cook for two seconds without him wandering off, could he?
Zoro considered going back to look for him, but then saw Shusui dart around the next corner and followed his sword instead. The cook could take care of himself. Right now Zoro needed his sword back.
He found it again in the most undignified way possible; by falling on top of it. One thing led to another and he had somehow gotten roped into escorting the little sword thief back to her base in a flower field somewhere.
"If my ship really is under attack I really should be heading there instead," Zoro said for the hundredth time.
"Not this again," Wicca said from somewhere by his ear, "I told you, it's your fault I'm hurt, so you have to help me out!" She slammed her fist against his shoulder.
Zoro winced, she was unexpectedly strong for her size, but conceded that she had a point, and with the way these streets kept moving he had no way of finding the port again without her help.
"Left here," she said.
Zoro took the turn, and felt a sharp tug at his ear, "Left is the other way!"
"I know which way left is!" he shouted, earning him a few stares from the crowds on the street as he backtracked and went the other way.
"Just my luck," she whimpered, "I'm stuck with a directionless moron."
He was about to retort with something devastatingly witty that would have shut her up for good, but he was cut short by a blow to his chest that left him winded. He paused, clutching his chest as he gasped for air.
"What is it?" Wicca said, panic creeping into her voice, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Zoro replied. Apparently Sanji couldn't be alone for five minutes without finding some kind of trouble, "I'm fine."
The next blow struck his head, causing him to reel back as blood trickled down his face.
"You're bleeding!" Wicca shrieked right near his ear, causing him to wince as she clutched at his shoulder.
"It's not mine," Zoro said as he wiped at the blood, "It's my soulmate's."
"Oh," she calmed down a little, but not much, "Are they on your ship? Has it been attacked already?"
"No, he's in town somewhere," Zoro looked down at his feet. Normally when Sanji set himself on fire to fight he'd get an echo of it, but he hadn't felt anything like that yet. Was he unable to fight back or was it his choice not to?
The next blow was to his face, and he felt the distinct press of a high heel shoe along with it. Yeah, it was his choice, that idiot.
Zoro started running again, "Which way to that field?"
"Eh?" She punched his shoulder, "What are you talking about? If your soulmate's in trouble don't you want to find him?"
"There's no need."
That earned him another punch, "Am I stuck with a heartless jerk that doesn't even care about his soulmate?"
"It's not like that!" He said as he picked a turn at random, "He's an idiot, but he's strong and reliable. I trust him to take care of himself. Something like this won't keep him down, and he'd be more upset that I interfered than anything. I care, I'm just not worried."
"I see," she said with a sigh, "So it's like that. It's a bit different from Leo."
"What are you talking about?"
"Leo's a friend of mine, he has a soulmate too," she explained, "He worries over her whenever he feels an echo, but, well he doesn't care about her much."
Zoro frowned, "What do you mean?"
"It's stupid, well, he's stupid," she said as she played with his earrings, "His soulmate is Princess Mansherry, who he doesn't care for, but he doesn't even realize it's her! Everyone else does, but he's so oblivious!"
"Wow," Zoro chuckled as shook his head, "What an idiot."
"I kind of want to tell him, just to end the nonsense," she sighed, long-suffering and exhausted, "but the Princess said not to."
"It's their business," Zoro said as he made another random turn, "If she's fine with it, then let him keep being a moron until he figures it out."
"Speaking of morons," She tugged at his ear, "You missed a turn back there!"
Zoro back tracked and followed her directions all the way to the field.
After a brief pit stop at Wicca's base where he was only minutely distracted by Luffy's tournament and, Wicca agreed to show him the way to the ship. They were back on the street again, making their way to the port.
"Turn left here," Wicca said, "Left is the side without your swords."
"I know left from right!" Zoro barked back.
"I do not believe you."
Zoro grumbled as he rounded the corner.
"Zoro! Zoro! We are over here!" He heard Kinemon shout.
Zoro looked over and saw a very conspicuous Sanji and Kinemon arguing in the street. Despite the beating he took earlier, Sanji didn't seem too worse for the wear.
"Friends of yours?" Wicca asked.
"Swirly-brow there is my soulmate," Zoro said as he changed directions towards them instead.
"Oh," Wicca stood up on his shoulder and leaned forward to get a better look, holding onto his ear for balance. After a bit she declared, "He's too good for you."
"Yeah, I know, but don't tell him that," as he came to a halt in front of them, he said, "Aren't we trying to stay under the radar here? You guys are being too obvious."
"Yeah, because you're a master of subtlety with three swords strapped to your waist," Sanji said with an eye roll.
Zoro's hand fell to his sword's hilt, "At least my eyebrows are normal."
"At least my hair isn't green," he growled around his cigarette, "The only place you could blend in is a meadow."
"We don't have time for this," Zoro said as he nodded his head towards where he assumed the port was, "The Sunny's under attack."
"What? You should have opened with that!" Sanji's eyes went wide and he looked around the plaza as if the Sunny would be right there for him to defend, "Nami's on the Sunny! We have to go now!"
"Not that I do not share your concerns, as Momonosuke is aboard your vessel as well," Kinemon said, placing a hand on Sanji's shoulder, "however I believe one of us should stay behind to inform Luffy of the situation currently taking place."
Sanji mulled it over, rolling his cigarette between his lips as he stared up at the colosseum, "Yeah…"
"Black Leg," a voice said from the nearby alley. They all looked over to see a woman with dark hair and a hood pulled over her head standing there, "Over here."
"Violet! You're alright," Sanji said with just a little too much affection for Zoro to be comfortable with.
He crossed his arms in front of him and frowned, "This is the country where people passionately stab their lovers, right?"
Sanji turned his attention back to him, where it should be, "You gonna passionately stab me, Marimo?"
Zoro narrowed his eye, a gesture Sanji couldn't see behind his sunglasses, but Zoro was sure he could feel it, "Considering it."
"I changed my mind," Wicca whispered in his ear, "You two are perfect for each other."
"Black Leg," Violet said again with urgency, "Jora's on your ship right now. She's taking it to Green Bit, where Doflamingo is."
"Damn," Sanji frowned, "This whole thing's gone to shit," he glanced up at the colosseum before looking at Zoro, "One of us needs to get there now, the other should stay here and get in touch with Luffy."
"Yeah," Zoro nodded and glanced up at the colosseum too, "I'll stay, you can go."
"Really?" Sanji's eyebrows shot up, "You sure? You don't wanna fight me on this?"
"We don't have time to fight," Zoro stated, "And I know you really wanna go play hero, so just go."
"Okay," Sanji nodded as he dug his hand into his breast pocket and pulled out a Baby Transponder Snail and a piece of paper. He held out the Transponder Snail to Zoro, "Once you find Luffy, call me on the Sunny."
"Fine," his fingertips brushed against Sanji's palm as he took it from him and put it in his own pocket.
"Here," he turned to Kinemon and handed him the paper, "These are directions to the Toy House where your friend is."
"Thank you very much," Kinemon said as he pocketed it.
"Alright," he turned back to Zoro, "Don't forget to call me."
Zoro rolled his eye, "Just go already, you damn Cook."
Sanji leaned in and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. Zoro felt heat spread from the point where Sanji's lips touched him all the way to tips of his ears as Sanji pulled away with a grin, "I'll see you later."
With that he turned and followed Violet down the alleyway and out of sight.
Zoro cleared his throat and tried to get his blush under control. He could feel a smug aura radiating off of Wicca and Kinemon's grin was just short of gleeful.
"Alright, so," he turned to the entrance of the coliseum, the gates of which were locked up tight, "Any ideas on how we get in?"
"That I know not," Kinemon said, "But whatever we do, we cannot be suspicious."
"Okay," Zoro nodded, "I'm gonna cut it."
"You're a moron!" Wicca said from his shoulder as she pulled his ear, "This place is crawling with Marines and Doflamingo's men! You're going to get caught!"
He rubbed at his ear, "Fine! Let's find another way in."
About halfway around the stadium, a familiar heat began crawling up his legs, indicating that Sanji was in a fight. Zoro didn't pay it much mind, especially since he'd left to go defend the Sunny, until several deep gashes appeared on his chest and face.
"Oh no," Wicca stood on his shoulder to study the gash on his face, "it's a clean cut, looks like it might be from string."
"I don't think a piece of string did this," Zoro said as he clutched his side where most of the damage was.
"Doflamingo ate the String-String Fruit," she bit her lip and clutched at Zoro's ear, "Your soulmate's probably fighting him right now!"
"Okay," Zoro said as he felt more heat incase his legs. Not the ideal situation, but at least Sanji was fighting back.
"You don't understand," she whined.
Before she could elaborate further, Zoro felt a sharp prick on the back of his neck and a sudden tug backward. He stumbled with it and found himself frozen in place.
"Is something the matter?" Kinemon asked.
"I, don't know?" Zoro said as he tentatively tried to move his arm. He could move it just fine, but still felt a persistent tug trying to keep it in place. It was extremely unsettling, and he wondered what exactly Doflamingo was doing to Sanji to get this kind of echo.
After a few tense moments, the feeling vanished as suddenly as it appeared.
"Well that was weird," Zoro said as he continued walking.
"Is Sanji alright?" Kinemon asked as he followed Zoro's lead.
"I think so," the cuts on his side had already stopped flowing freely, so Sanji had probably found his way to Chopper.
"Do you want to go to him?" Wicca asked, voice dripping in concern.
Zoro shook his head, "He'll be fine. Right now we gotta find Luffy."
They continued circling the colosseum, but every entrance they found was locked.
"It's like they don't want us to get in," Zoro sighed.
"That is my belief as well," Kinemon said.
"Shit," Zoro frowned and rubbed his head, "How the hell are we supposed to see Luffy?"
"R-Roronoa Zoro!" A voice called from inside the colosseum.
Zoro looked up at the colosseum and saw a green haired man standing near one of the windows, crying his eyes out, "What do you want?"
He felt a sharp tug on his ear as Wicca whispered, "Don't just respond to your name like that!"
"I mean, I have no idea who that is," Zoro told the guy, "But what do you want?"
"I," the guy sniffled, more tears leaking from his eyes, and Zoro wondered what exactly his deal was, "I can help! I can help you find Luffy."
"Oh, great, you know where Luffy is?" Wicca tugged his ear again, "I mean, I don't know who that is, but I need to speak with the gladiator Lucy. Do you know where he is?"
"Yes! Yes of course!" he wiped away some of the tears, but it didn't seem to do him much good, "If I, if I get him for you, w-would you give me an autograph?"
It was hard to understand him between sobs, but it sounded like he was offering to fetch Luffy for them, "Yeah, that would be great."
The guy snapped to attention and finished wiping away his tears, "Just wait right there, Roronoa Zoro! I'll bring Luffy back without fail, even if it costs me my life!"
"Unnecessary, but okay," this guy was a bit off, but he could appreciate the enthusiasm, "Thanks!"
The guy ran off without another word.
"What a strange man," Kinemon said.
"Yeah," Zoro shrugged, "But if he's helping us, that's good."
He touched the cut on his cheek. It had stopped bleeding completely now, and the echo itself was starting to fade. He could leave the Sunny to Sanji, so he should focus on updating Luffy.
All he could do was wait.
Zoro didn't like it.
Not the saving Law part. He'd follow Luffy into hell if someone told him hell served the best meat, so he had no problem with following Luffy into Doflamingo's castle to save Trafalgar Law.
And he didn't have a problem with Franky's group helping out the Tonattas. If they were that moved by their plight then they should lend a hand, plus destroying the factory was part of their original plan anyway.
What he didn't like, what was bugging him almost to the point of distraction, was that Sanji and the others were at this moment sailing away from him.
But that wasn't all, was it?
"It's Big Mom's ship!" Brook and Chopper had screamed through the Transponder Snail during their conference call.
They were still dealing with Doflamingo, had Kaido just ahead, and out of nowhere Big Mom showed up. It was the absolute worst situation they could have been in, and Sanji was out there taking the brunt of an Emperor's assault.
"I just need permission for one thing," Sanji's voice had sounded calm through the Transponder Snail, steady, like he already had at least half of a plan ready to go, "Allow me to fire back at Big Mom's ship."
Zoro glanced down at his legs. There had been heat on both of them for a while, but was gone now. He didn't feel any other echoes, so he could only assume the counterattack went off without a hitch.
"Hey," Zoro looked over at Luffy, who looked ridiculous in the koi suit Kinemon made for him, "You worried about Sanji and the others?"
Zoro looked away, internally cursing himself for being so easy to read even in the stupid cat suit, or maybe Luffy just knew him that well, "No."
"Good," Luffy grinned, "'Cause they'll be fine. We'll finish up here in no time and be on Zou before you know it."
"See you guys later then," Sanji had said, unperturbed by the rest of the ship screaming in terror in the background, "We'll be waiting at Zou."
Zoro raised his hand and touched his cheek as much as he could through the costume. If he thought about it, he could still feel the press of Sanji's lips there, could remember his self-satisfied grin when he pulled away.
"I'll see you later."
He'd spent two years without Sanji, he could stand to wait a few days to see him again.
It didn't mean he had to liked it.
After the fighting was finally over, Kyros had offered his house for them to rest. With Law's help they managed to get themselves bandaged up, and one by one they passed out from exhaustion until only Zoro, Franky, Robin, and Sabo were still awake.
"How's your back?" Franky asked Robin as he screwed something in under his damaged eye. "I got some real intense echoes from you there."
"Better now," Robin said as she leaned against the side he wasn't working on, "How's your head?"
Franky grinned as he moved the screwdriver to his cheek, "Nothing that can't be fixed."
"How many times," she said as she stroked his arm, "did you let him smack your head against the ground again?"
"It was a manly duel," he pouted, "that I won."
"If you say so," she sighed, "But you've avoided the question."
"How's Sanji doing, Zoro?" Franky asked instead of answering. Zoro took a swig from the sake bottle as he glanced over at them, "You get any echoes from him or what?"
Zoro put the bottle down and shrugged, "He used Diable Jambe at some point, but I haven't had any echoes since he left."
"Well, that's good," Franky nodded before going back to fixing his face, "If they managed to escape from Big Mom without getting hurt."
"I guess," he picked up the bottle again and glanced over at Sabo, who was gazing down at Luffy's face and clutching his chest, "You okay, Sabo? Does your chest hurt?"
"Hm?" Sabo looked down and noticed what he was doing. He released his chest and placed his hand beside him on the bed, "No, well, yeah, but its fine. It didn't happen today."
"I'm sorry Sabo," Robin said as she sat up, leaning away from Franky, "All this soulmate talk must be hard for you."
He shook his head, "Its fine. People talking about their soulmates doesn't bother me as much anymore."
Zoro frowned as he took another sip from the bottle.
Franky asked, "Do you have a soulmate, Sabo?"
Sabo's smile was forced as he replied, "Yes, well, I did, I don't anymore," he tapped his fingers against his knee as he looked down at Luffy, his smile slowly slipping off his face, "My soulmate was Ace."
An awkward silence filled the room as they fully processed that. Eventually Franky said, "Damn, really not super of me, sorry for bringing it up."
"It's okay, really," Sabo assured him, "I've gotten used to it, and I don't mind talking about it."
"So how much does having your soulmate die suck?" Zoro asked.
Robin shot him a glare that would have set him on fire if he were a lesser man while Franky shouted, "Dude! Super insensitive!"
"He said it was fine," Zoro shrugged. He noticed Sabo crack a real smile, so he continued, "Besides, I've always wanted to know."
"Honestly, the stories sell it short," he said, clutching at his chest again, "It's so much worse than I expected. The closest I can describe it is like," he glanced down at his heart, then up at Zoro, "It feels like once Ace died, someone grabbed my heart and ripped it still beating out of my chest, like there's some essential part of me that's missing, a giant hole in my chest that should be filled but isn't. Sometimes the pain bearable, but it's endless and inescapable. All I can really do is get used to it."
Franky wrapped his free arm around Robin, who grabbed his hand and squeezed. Zoro looked out the window and glanced at the moon, wondering where Sanji was now and desperately wanting him here with him. To Sabo he said, "That really sucks."
"Yeah," Sabo sighed, "It really fucking does. But luckily I have friends and comrades that help me deal with it," he looked down at Luffy and let go of his chest to push his hair out of his sleeping face, "And I've still got Luffy. Somehow it hurts a little less knowing that he's safe and well," his smile softened as he looked back up at them, "So make sure you take care of each other, alright?"
Franky and Robin nodded as they leaned further against each other, soft smiles on their faces as the basked in each other's heat and comfort and presence.
Zoro nodded too as he placed his hand over his own heart, felt it still beating in his chest and knew that somewhere Sanji's was still beating too. Right now, in this moment he missed him fiercely, longed for the feel of his hand in his, for the sight of his smile, for the press of his lips. But he would see Sanji again, so for now he had to settle for the knowledge that Sanji was alive.
It would have to be enough.